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 (Manna 23: The Household of God)
Will Tomorrow Surely Come?
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Will Tomorrow Surely Come?

             “ All flesh is like grass,

            And all its glory like

            The flower of grass.

            The grass withers

            And the flower falls” (1 Pet 1:24)

 

LIFE IS SHORT. We all know that. For each moment of our existence, the clock ticks mercilessly. Philosophers and great poets have expounded this universal theme, leaving behind, as they passed through their short lives, clichés in the likes of “Gather ye rose-buds while ye may” and “Seize the day”. Such messages are precisely those which propel man to seek technological innovations so as to be able to do the greatest amount of work possible in the shortest amount of time. Such messages have become the mottos we all cling on to, whether consciously or unconsciously, as we bustle about in worldly pursuits.

Most ironically however, while “Seize the day!” rings behind our backs everyday, we seem to assume that life will go on and on, and that there will always be a tomorrow for us again to sing “Seize the day!” The fragility and unpredictability of human life and the imminence of loss of life seldom, if ever, cross our minds.

Students study hard so that they have better job prospects, that life will be better tomorrow. Adults slog and toil with the hope of sitting back to enjoy life in the future. Many aspire to achieve greater heights with each day and “all when?” is a question they never bother to answer. As it is, the whole world moves along, apparently seizing the day, yet drunk with the notion that tomorrow will surely come. Along this drunken path, we may be rudely sobered by perhaps, the imminent death of someone we know. Maybe, after a while, we fall back into the drunken state. Maybe, and hopefully, we don’t.

Just a few weeks ago, I spoke to a sister in church. I talked about visiting her hometown some time next year. She gave me a smile, her sweet, characteristic smile, and replied, “Next year? Maybe I won’t be at home.” “Where would you be ?“, I asked. “Don’t know, maybe on a tour, somewhere away from home.” I found out what she actually meant only a week later. Doctors had told her the tumour removed from her body was malignant and the cancerous cells were fast multiplying inside her. She is only a teenager.

Death—a word we associate with the old, the sick or those in war-torn lands. Normal people don’t talk about death. Strangely, but true, the modern man who espouses “Seize the day” as a way of life, and hence slogs and toils, refuses to acknowledge the fact that for every human being, tomorrow may never come.

In Luke Chapter 12, our Lord Jesus spoke a parable about a rich man (Lk 12:16-21). This man typifies the modern man many of us are. He stores up much wealth and plans to build bigger barns for his goods. “Soul,” he says, “you have many goods laid up for many years.” Sadly, he fails to realise that anytime, even “this night”, his soul maybe required of him. For whom has he toiled? How shall he appear before God?

If we know we have got 30 or 50 more years to live, we will say many things can wait. Let me earn my first million, after which I’ll settle down and serve God. Let me get promoted as Head of Department first, then I’ll be free to take up divine work. Let my business pickup first...let me... I do not mean these are what Christians should seek if we really have 50 years to go. The point is, these reflect accurately the attitudes many of us have today, which are of course based on the presumption that our tomorrows will surely come. But, how can we know what will happen tomorrow? (ref Jas 4:13-15) This is not to say that Christians must not plan and we should only live from day to day. What is more pertinent is how we ought to lead our lives if we have, say, only one year left to live.

If we have only one year more to live, we will probably see ourselves becoming active in divine work. For many of us, serving God in church is something we have always longed to do but which has always been postponed because our secular work needed more immediate attention; and anyway, “we will serve ultimately, not now, but hopefully soon.”

We are also more likely to give of ourselves to help others. Someone with 50 years to live has 50 years to lose; he must firmly clasp his dear long life, so he has to do his mental sums and work things out before he decides whether to help. Someone with only one year is more likely to be the good Samaritan to stop and help the wounded passer-by, for probably, he will only pass this way but once.

We are certainly more likely to show those whom we love that we love them. We will not want to waste precious time being angry and unforgiving and lock ourselves in emotional cold wars. We will want to reach out to our close ones to tell them about the goodness of our Lord Jesus. We will feel the urgency to seek those who have wandered far from the flock.

Meditating on the unpredictability of life and the possibility of death catching us unaware is not morbid. It is in fact essential for Christians. Wise King Solomon says, “Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting; for this is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to heart.” (Eccl 7:2) The thought of death can jerk us up, from our complacency, from our numb, zombie-like preoccupation with the world.

“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong...but time and chance happen to them all. For man does not know his time. Like fish which are taken into an evil net, and like birds which are caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.” (Eccl 9:11,12). Time and chance are not in our control. So, gather we rosebuds while we may, old time is still a-flying, and this same flower that smiles today, tomorrow will be dying—of course, with the right frame of mind, fully focused on God.

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Author: Lim Siok Hong
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